How do donors support the decent work agenda? A review of five donors

Research reports and studies
March 2017

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s definition, decent work ‘involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men’ (ILO, 2016a). The Decent Work Agenda was developed in 1999 by the ILO around four pillars: employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue (Andrieu et al., 2008).1 It has achieved high-level international endorsement, first in 2008, when it was included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under MDG 1, and later as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the accompanying Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where it is specifically included in SDG 8: ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. 

With decent work now included as a specific goal within the SDGs (SDG 8), a considerable number of donors have started to recognise that supporting the Decent Work Agenda is a growing priority for development assistance. Decent work is a key area of engagement for the ILO and its members. Many aspects of this agenda are also present in the other 16 goals of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. In addition, multilateral organisations, members of the G20, G7, EU and African Union have endorsed the significance of decent work to sustainable development (ILO, 2016a).

This study investigates how donors support and finance the four key dimensions of the Decent Work Agenda (employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue). It attempts to track levels of resources to the achievement of decent work and identify the gaps. This is done by looking at five Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries: France, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The research follows from the 2011 study Decent work in donor country development cooperation policy (Vansant, 2011), which provides a general overview of development policy and implementation in donor countries as it relates to the Decent Work Agenda. It goes on to offer a set of recommendations for how to better measure the resource allocation to decent work.